I think you are missing the key underlying factor that fuels the arguments involving Canon's sensor technology: Low ISO Image Quality. From a purely technological standpoint, fabrication process and advancement are also underlying factors.
To be blunt, Canon's physical technology IS inferior. They use a fabrication process that is over a decade old, and there is no denying that at ISO 100, 200, and to some degree 400...their shadow noise is NASTY!...
Whether the technology is old or not is only relevant if it has an impact on their ability to sell cameras, which doesn't seem to be the case. There is zero evidence that the market agrees with your assessment and until the market does, Canon has no incentive to change.
It is not the case yet, but on all of the relevant forums, including CR, the sentiment that Canon sensors do not provide enough low ISO DR definitely exists and is growing. Sure, people vote with their pocket books. I guess the sales numbers of Canon cameras over the next few years will really tell the story, and there will always be die-hard loyalists who will never switch brands. I would also be interested to see if Nikon's sales would increase if they could produce enough supply to meet demand in markets where it is really high, and expand their customer support team to be large enough to deal with the technical issues they have in a way that pleases their customers.
No, not any concrete market information yet...however I do believe there is some pretty strong sentiment in all the major forums on the internet regarding Canon sensor technology.
Canon needs to stop focusing on video, and refocus in stills photography, in their photographic DSLRs.
Why would a company refocus on a shrinking market while ignoring a growth market? I'm a stills photographer, but let's face it...we are all along just for the ride. The growth market for both commercial and amateurs is video. It doesn't take a genius to look at the growth of YouTube, Netflix, OnDemand, Independent Networks, streaming over websites, etc. etc. to see where the growth and demand is.
The next generation of filmmakers are already out there making videos using Rebels. Canon fully intends to move them up through the system. There is no "next generation" of stills photographers to speak of.
I think you may be mistaken about the DSLR market. DSLR sales, for photography, have been increasing at higher rates than mirrorless cameras, and in cases where DSLR sales dropped, they dropped less than mirrorless sales:http://www.sansmirror.com/newsviews/panasonics-mirrorless-claim.htmlhttp://petapixel.com/2012/04/26/dslr-sales-surging-despite-onslaught-from-camera-phones/http://ezinearticles.com/?Digital-Camera-Sales-Trend-Moving-Through-2013&id=7440714http://www.dpreview.com/news/2013/08/08/nikon-cuts-2013-sales-forecast-citing-poor-mirrorless-camera-sales
There is a specific article that talked about changing trends that I cannot find at the moment (I've posted the link on this site before) that discussed the shift towards DSLR is being fueled by increased use of smartphone cameras, claiming that once users get a taste for photography, they inevitably want higher quality photos. The article seemed to jive with what I've heard from the people I know as well...a growing number of them are buying entry level DSLRs (rather than mirrorless or other compact cameras) as counterparts for their smartphone cameras. That jives with Nikon's missed targets and cuts in their sales forecasts for the 1-series, as well as the rumors that Nikon will be releasing some kind of entry-level DSLR to compete with Canon's new 100D.
Photography, including in the case of DSLRs, is still a growth market. Depending on the source of the numbers, DSLR sales will grow anywhere from 17-26% this year, which is significant. Video makes sense for entry level gear as well, for the very reasons you specify...but does it still make sense for professional grade DSLR cameras when Canon also has the Cinema line? If someone is professionally looking to do cinematography with a DSLR, the C-line is better suited, and could use some entry-level and mid-level parts. It also seems that if a consumer
wants something for video, a mirrorless camera is the easier device to use...yet sales of mirrorless have been growing slower than sales of DSLR cameras and in some cases fallen considerably...which also makes me think it is photography people are interested in.
I want Canon to compete, on all levels, not just one level at a time. Sure, their technology is good. It is quickly becoming "not good enough" for the current age.
Well, I think that is exactly the point. Canon's technology is "good enough" and the history of technology is that "good enough" almost always beats "the best."
Not trying to be argumentative. John, I respect both the depth of you technical knowledge and your skills as a nature photographer. I'm just trying to play the devil's advocate here and force people to think outside their own wants and desires and see that there is a different way to interpret the current state of the market.
Sure. Sorry, I know I come off strong. I don't dispute the current state of the market. Based on the Market, Canon is king. They are a fiscally sound company as well, and I applaud them for that. I just read about Kodak's bankruptcy filing and the final status today, and I guess the conditions of their bankruptcy agreement, which restructures the company to completely remove them from the consumer market, has made me wonder about Canon's strategy. Sure, video is a growth market. It is a growth market both at the professional level as well as the consumer level. It seems logical to me that entry level DSLR's get some "fancy" video features, but it also seems more logical to me that professionals would demand truly professional video features. Things like RAW output, full HDMI output, better support for external audio equipment, so on and so forth. They ARE demanding those things (which is clear from the video-centric reviews of high end DSLR cameras like the 5D III.)
My concern is that Canon is too focused, and is going to focus so hard on ONE thing that they miss the opportunities in other areas. My concern is that if they do that, they WILL start to lose customers in the stills market. The thing about the professional, semi-professional, and enthusiast amateur DSLR market is it is largely saturated...if those consumers start looking for better IQ (and it's clear more and more of them ARE), market share can only shift from one brand to another.
I understand there is a bigger picture. Canon is a very fiscally sound company, and they have taken a very old process very far. Does Canon see the bigger picture, though? I mean, I can only evaluate the potential future based on what I do. I understand that other people have their own demands...but maybe some market segmentation is in order. Video vs. Stills, rather than Video and Stills. Canon apparently has only so many R&D resources, and they seem to all be focused on video. Is my significant investment (over $25,000) in Canon equipment going to last for the duration it needs to (measured in decades) in order to be cost effective? Or will I wake up in five years and realize I have to switch brands, likely at a significant loss, because I haven't seen any reason to buy a new Canon camera because their IQ is still fundamentally the same as it is today, while their competitors are pushing 16 stops of DR, with more resolution, and better IQ overall?
Canon Leads in Sensor Tech
Also, last, while I did respond to some of the things inside the body of your post, I guess I was mostly responding to the title. From a technological (tech) standpoint, Canon really doesn't lead. I know they have done some good things with their tech, but it is definitely not leading...from a technology standpoint alone. Just about every other sensor manufacturer has superior technology...superior fabrication techniques, superior light gathering capability facilitated either by light pipes or BSI designs, superior quantum efficiency, greater dynamic range, often even at smaller (sometimes much smaller) pixel pitch, etc.
From a marketing standpoint, I don't think there is any question Canon is the leader. Their market share and sales numbers clearly indicate that. But in terms of Sensor Tech
...I just don't believe that is the case. They definitely have better FPPDAF technology, but that is one feature in a bucket of around a dozen or so fundamental technologies that determine the technological maturity, and superiority, of a sensor.
It actually blows my mind that some companies are already pushing the 900nm (0.9µm) pixel pitch. That is small enough that it is intrinsically filtering out far IR. The next logical step would be around 750nm (0.75µm) pixel pitch...and that would basically be the limit! At that level, you would already be filtering out near-IR and a small amount of deep red light...you would no longer need an IR cutoff filter...its rather extreme. What some sensor manufacturing companies have done even at 1100nm (1.1µm), and the IQ and noise levels they have been able to maintain with such incredibly small pixels, is amazing. (Realize that a 1.1µm pixel on FF would be a 714 megapixel sensor!)